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Austin Bar Association offers training on how to help families separated at the border

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:52

The Austin Bar Association is hosting a training for attorneys who want to help families separated upon entering the United States.

The training, titled Responding to Zero-Tolerance: Credible Fear and Immigration Bond Hearing Training, will be held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Monday, June 25 at the Austin Bar office. The in-person training is sold out, has more than 100 attorneys already signed up and a growing waitlist, said Nancy Gray, director of communications for the Austin Bar.

Due to the enormous demand, the course will be live streamed on Periscope. If you would like to watch remotely, prepare by downloading Periscope to your mobile device, creating a Periscope account, and following the Austin Bar at @austinbarassociation.

Click here for instructions on how to sign up for Periscope. The training will also be videotaped and available at austinbar.org after the training has been completed.

The training will be taught by University of Texas School of Law immigration clinic professors Barbara Hines, Denise Gilman, and Elissa Steglich.

TCLE previews new subscription-based CLE program at Annual Meeting

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:29

Texas Center for Legal Ethics announced its plans for State Bar of Texas 2018 Annual Meeting where attendees can earn CLE and preview the center’s newest ethics CLE subscription-based program launching later this Fall.

The subscription program aims to provide new and current TCLE members with an intuitive online resource to access continuing education courses on-demand, as well as TCLE’s vast library of ethics and professionalism resources. The center will preview the program during Annual Meeting exhibition hours at Booth 107.

To read the full news release, go here.

Annual Meeting attendees also can earn one hour of ethics CLE credit during TCLE’s popular morning break-out session on Thursday titled, “Your Brain on Ethics: How That Thing Between Your Ears Can Lead You Astray.” To learn more about Annual meeting and registering, go here.


State Bar board to meet June 20-21 in Houston

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:53

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will meet June 20-21 in Houston.

The meetings will take place at the Marriott Marquis, 1777 Walker St. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Click here to view the agendas and other meeting materials.

State Bar of Texas’ Jury Service Committee seeks juror feedback

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 08:52

The State Bar of Texas’ Jury Service Committee is seeking feedback from people summoned to jury duty about their experiences.

The committee has created an online survey designed to elicit a more thorough understanding of the juror experience regardless of court or county or whether or not the individual ended up serving on a jury. The committee hopes the information collected will result in recommendations to improve the jury service system where possible.

The survey can be found at texasbar.com/jurysurvey.

The State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee concerns itself with improving the manner in which jurors are treated within the judicial process and developing and implementing programs to ensure broad citizen participation and support for the jury service system.

Automotive savings

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 08:00

Your Member Benefit Program has savings on all things automotive: tires, loans, car sales and more. You’ll find offers on nearly any car brand, model or style. Check out the Automotive and Sports & Outdoors pages for more info.

  • Toyota H-Plan — The Toyota Employee Purchase Program, administered by Fred Haas Toyota Country (FHTC), gives you a good value when you purchase or lease a new Toyota. The Employee Purchase Program provides the extra incentive to get in that car, truck, van or SUV you’ve always wanted.
  • myAutoloan.com myAutoloan.com is your premier online auto finance and refinance marketplace. You’ll receive up to four loan offers within two minutes.
  • Avis Car Sales When you purchase a well-maintained, late-model pre-owned car, you’ll save $750. Shop thousands of cars, trucks, SUVs and vans.
  • TrueCar — Summer sales are here. Buyers save an average of $3,221 on MSRP with the TrueCar Employee Purchase Program.
  • Volvo A-Plan — The Volvo A-Plan program provides you with the same attractive pricing Volvo employees enjoy. Purchase prices are 6% below MSRP and equate to the vehicle’s invoice price.
  • TireBuyer.comTireBuyer.com provides the fastest, easiest way to buy tires. State Bar of Texas members save 10% on any set of four tires or rims.
  • StioOffering everything from technical ski outerwear, responsibly sourced down jackets and synthetic insulators to merino wool sweaters, jeans and custom-design tees, Stio has something for everyone. You can save 15% on all Stio apparel.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Vick: Supreme Court approves changes to State Bar election process

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 16:02

Tom Vick

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members on Thursday. 

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Texas amended Article IV of the State Bar Rules to implement changes to the bar’s election process designed to ensure fairness and a level playing field among all candidates.

The rules changes, which were approved by the State Bar Board of Directors in January, update election procedures for president-elect and district directors and define a six-month period when candidates who are seeking election by petition may collect signatures. The amended rules also require the State Bar board to nominate president-elect candidates in September, instead of the following January as traditionally has been done. Taken together, these changes ensure the campaign periods are equivalent for president-elect candidates whether they are nominated by the board or certified through petition.

As a result of these changes, petition candidates may begin collecting signatures September 1 of each year. The Nominations and Elections Subcommittee will interview candidates who wish to seek election through the board’s nomination process in August of each year, and the full board will vote on the nominees at its September meeting.

In January, the board also approved sweeping changes to its policy manual that relaxed or removed many campaign guidelines to ensure that director and president-elect candidates are able to freely present their views of and visions for the bar.

Click here to read the full Supreme Court order and new text of Article IV.

If you are interested in more information on how to run for president-elect or district director, please click here.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

Sponsored Content: 8 Legal Tech Tips for Law Office Administrators

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 23:01

It’s no secret that office administrators at law firms wear many different hats. One responsibility that often does not receive the attention it deserves (at least not until there’s an emergency) is managing technology effectively at one’s law office.

Below are eight technology tips for law office administrators, shared by an ex-office administrator who has since joined our team at GlobalMac IT. These tips came from a discussion centered around this question: “If you were speaking to a new office administrator, and giving them tips about technology, what are the things you knew when you left that you wished you had known when you started?”

1. Clarify asks for new technology

It’s common for someone at a firm to get excited about how the latest whiz-bang app or gadget is going fix everything. They’ll likely ask to get it moving forward ASAP, but these quick-fire solutions can lead to multiple issues: The technology may not be properly tested ahead of time, or features of the new tech may already exist within solutions the firm currently uses, which can cause confusion. A shiny new solution may seem great, but it may not be the best option for your firm.

I recommend having a set of questions for every idea that comes in to clarify what’s being asked for and ensure the solution chosen will be a good fit:

  • Purpose: What do you want to accomplish?
  • Importance: What’s the biggest difference this new solution will make?
  • Ideal Outcome: What does the completed project look like?
  • Success Criteria: What has to be true when this project is finished?

Taking the time to define these will go a long way in capturing what is expected and why.

2. Be intentional with trial periods

These days, trial periods for new technology are rarely leveraged properly. It is not uncommon for some law firm IT managers to skip the trial period for new software and jump right in, figuring things out along the way.

However, this approach often reduces the chances that new technology will succeed at your law firm.

If you’ve asked the right questions to clarify what’s being asked of a new tech solution, you’ve already determined what you are looking to get out of a new solution, i.e., your success criteria.

Before you even sign up for a trial, you need to create a list of success criteria so you can quickly and intentionally look for what you need. If you sign up for a trial and aimlessly poke around the software, you may see things you like, but you may also forget to check for some of the most important items needed.

Another tip when it comes to trials is to ask for extensions when necessary. As a law firm office administrator, your schedule can change quickly, and you may not have as much time for a software trial as you originally thought.

If you signed up for a 14 day trial only to have the next two weeks dedicated to another, more critical project, don’t hesitate to email the vendor you’re considering, explain your situation, and request an extension. While not all vendors will accommodate you, many will, especially with an explanation.

Tip: Some vendors offer personalized demonstrations, making it even easier to evaluate new tech solutions despite your busy schedule. For example, you can schedule a free demo of Clio, and get your questions answered quickly and efficiently.

See the full list of tips here.



Enjoy lunch, earn 3 CLE hours at Paralegal Division Annual Meeting

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:18

Come out to the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division Annual Meeting on Friday, June 22 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Austin Marriott South.

Participants can earn three hours of CLE credit. Register for $65. On-site registration is not available. Lunch is included.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Palladino, executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission. Other speakers include Robert Sumners and Sara Wagner from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, Susan Haney from The Haney Law Firm, and Sgt. Major Stephen A. Pickerin II from the JAG Office at Fort Hood.

The State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, founded in 1981, was created to enhance paralegals’ participation in the administration of justice, professional responsibility, and public service in cooperation with the State Bar and to provide a statewide organization for communication between paralegals in Texas.

Register today!

Texas Bar Journal must-reads for June

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 08:00

Can’t wait for the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal to arrive? The TBJ editorial staff has you covered. Check out our top picks: Q&As with the State Bar’s and TYLA’s new presidents, information on digital privacy matters, and winners from the bar’s short story contest. Don’t forget to catch up on Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

The Good Fight
State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley on eradicating injustice.
Interview by Patricia Busa McConnico

Life Lessons
How a court battle between parents sprung the Texas Young Lawyers Association president into family law practice.
Interview by Eric Quitugua

The Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest 2018
A look at the winning stories penned by attorney-authors.

Privacy Matters
Is accessing a spouse’s cellphone without consent against the law?
By Pierre Grosdidier

L. Wayne Scott named 2018 Gene Cavin Award winner

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:00

Professor L. Wayne Scott, of San Antonio, is the winner of the 2018 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in CLE. Scott will be presented the award at the Advanced Civil Appellate Practice Course in September in Austin.

L. Wayne Scott

Scott is a professor of law and director of alternate dispute resolution studies at St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Nominations for the award are solicited from the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, CLE Committee members, and past award recipients. The award was established by the CLE Committee in 1989 and recognizes long-term participation in State Bar CLE activities.

The award is named for Gene Cavin, the founder of the Professional Development Program, who during his service from 1964 to 1987, brought the program to international prominence.

Privacy Matters

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:00

Pierre Grosdidier on whether accessing a spouse’s cellphone without consent is against the law.

Legal Mapmaker™ seminar gives young lawyers a step-by-step guide to establish a law firm

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:00

Legal Mapmaker, which is sponsored by Baylor Law School in collaboration with other law schools and the State Bar of Texas, aims to equip new lawyers with the tools to start practices that provide legal services to the public efficiently and affordably.

This year’s seminar, a two-part program that gives young lawyers a step-by-step guide on how to design an efficient and profitable law firm, will be held on August 15-17 at South University Law Center of Baylor Law School.

The first part of the seminar is a curated library of materials to help walk young lawyers through the steps of starting a new law firm. The second part, in August, will feature over 25 experts, 19 sessions, workshops, and individual coaching on building business, marketing, technology, and website plans. Some of the programming includes sessions on:

• Building a powerful network
• Alternative fee arrangements
• Marketing
• Bar & Community involvement
• How to find meaningful coaching

One-on-one coaching sessions with experts will be held on topics including business planning, legal technology, marketing, and website developments. Spots are limited to in-person attendees.

In addition to guiding young lawyers on starting a new law firm, the seminar can also help young lawyers find ways to distinguish themselves professionally at small firms by learning skills like business planning, marketing, technology, and cybersecurity.

An estimated 15-17 hours of CLE credit, including three hours of ethics credit, is anticipated for the seminar. An application for accreditation of this activity has ben submitted to the MCLE committee of the State Bar of Texas and is pending.

This year the Legal Mapmaker will also be offered by live stream. Those wishing to attend in person or by live stream can RSVP at legalmapmaker.com. RSVP before July 15 to take advantage of the $230 Entrepreneur & Community Leadership Scholarship (bringing the cost of attendance down to $20).

Austin Bar Association names new president

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 16:00

Adam T. Schramek, a litigation partner in the Austin office of Norton Rose Fulbright, is the new president of the Austin Bar Association. He took office on June 1.

Adam Schramek

Since 2013, Schramek served as a member of the Austin Bar Association Board of Directors. He also previously served as president of the Austin Young Lawyers Association and is a fellow of the Austin Bar Foundation.

As president, Schramek will work to increase participation by Austin lawyers in pro bono projects, such as Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, or TLTV, which provides pro bono civil legal assistance to veterans and their families who otherwise could not afford legal services.

“Attorneys are the only people who can go to the courthouse to represent the legal needs of the poor and disadvantaged,” Schramek said in a press release. “Austin lawyers can do more, and we should each strive to meet the State Bar’s goal of at least 50 hours of pro bono service each yet.”

For more information about the Austin Bar Association, go to austinbar.org.

Texas Legal Answers celebrates first anniversary

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 16:35

Texas Legal Answers, a free online legal advice clinic for low-income Texans, is celebrating its one-year anniversary on June 1.

As part of the State Bar of Texas’s Pro Bono Texas initiative, the program was launched last year with the goal of increasing access to justice for low-income Texans and removing barriers for attorneys providing pro bono services. As such, qualifying users can post civil legal questions to the site and get legal advice from volunteer pro bono attorneys.

“Running Texas Legal Answers has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Our volunteers are amazing, helping so many of our fellow Texans in need with an answer only they can provide while empowering the clients and moving them closer to accessing justice. I look forward to working on how this program can grow and tackling the challenge of recruiting engaged, committed volunteers,” said Hannah Allison, Texas Legal Answers program manager.

Texas Legal Answers has 570 volunteer attorneys working on 401 active cases across 26 different categories (as of May 23, 2018). Logging of hours is optional, but the attorneys who keep track have logged 1,355 hours, which is worth $271,000 in pro bono services. Volunteer attorneys have answered 2,918 of 4,448 questions posted, or 66 percent.

The Texas Legal Answers program is part of an American Bar Association Project that launched nationwide in 2015.

Buck Lewis, Free Legal Answers program creator and American Bar Association Pro Bono Committee chair, said the inspiration for the program came about during a Tennessee Access to Justice Commission meeting. Lewis said a recurring theme of the commission meetings was that people couldn’t get in touch with attorneys or go to clinics due to their work schedules and personal responsibilities. Lewis said it was noticed around the room that all the attorneys were using mobile phones to stay in contact and that email might be a great way for people needing legal help to reach attorneys.

The program launched in Tennessee in 2010 and was in about a half-dozen states by 2015, when the ABA Pro Bono Committee launched the program nationally. According to Tali K. Albukerk, national administrator of ABA Free Legal Answers, there are currently 42 jurisdictions committed to participating in the program. Of those, 38 jurisdictions are participating in the ABA Free Legal Answers program in various stages of access by clients, pro bono attorneys, and/or state administrators.

There has been “tremendous growth” in the program, Lewis said. The number of volunteer lawyers has continued to increase, and many attorneys who have never done pro bono work are volunteering through Free Legal Answer programs. Lewis said the attorney’s ability to answer questions at anytime or at any place has made the service more appealing to attorneys who had not participated in pro bono work in the past.

“The great thing about Texas Legal Answers is that attorneys can either come together at the same place and time for an e-clinic, work in different locations at the same time, or work in different locations at different times. The Texas Legal Answers system provides flexibility to implement an e-clinic or a pro bono clinic in a variety of ways,” said San Antonio Young Lawyers Association Director Michael Ritter, who organized an e-clinic with members of the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association and law students from St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Texas Legal Answers can provide a way to access partnerships, add to summer associate programs, is a great team-building exercise, and provides opportunities for in-house clinics.

The e-clinic hosted by SAYLA in cooperation with St. Mary’s University School of Law is an example of a partnership created through volunteering for Texas Legal Answers. Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee sponsored the e-clinic, and Summer Moon Coffee provided volunteers with free coffee and snacks.

“The opportunity to expose students to the process of receiving, researching, and drafting answers to real-life legal questions struck me as a meaningful way to introduce one of the many ways in which lawyers can undertake pro bono practice. The site’s emphasis on providing clear, concise responses, free of the dreaded legalese, stood out as an important learning experience,” said Gregory Zlotnick, director of pro bono programs for the Center for Legal and Social Justice at St. Mary’s University.

Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee also hosted students from Baylor Law School at their Waco office to answer questions on Texas Legal Answers.

The attorneys selected questions from Texas Legal Answers and paired up with student attorneys to answer the questions. The newer students had group discussions with attorneys about how best to answer the questions, while more experienced students drafted answers that were reviewed and discussed with the attorneys, said Stephen Rispoli, assistant dean of student affairs and pro bono at Baylor Law School.

Both Rispoli and Zlotnick said that students loved the experience and that they plan on continuing participation in the Texas Legal Answers program. Both agreed that the program has the potential to provide legal services to those in need who couldn’t afford it and/or cannot make it to a free legal clinic.

“Many low-income individuals who lack access to legal services cannot make it to a physical location at a particular date and time. An e-clinic allows lawyers to help people who are limited in transportation or by geography. On the lawyer side, lawyers can answer questions at their leisure, at their own pace, and either with friends and fellow lawyers or by themselves in the comfort and privacy of their own homes,” Ritter said.

In order to qualify for Texas Legal Answers, household income should be less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, users cannot be incarcerated, may only seek civil advice, and cannot post more than three legal questions per year (follow-up questions with an attorney can be done as many times as the attorney or user chooses). Users only have to submit their name and county.

Volunteer attorneys answering questions are anonymous to users, are offered malpractice insurance coverage within Texas, and may decide their own time commitment to the program. Texas Legal Answers offers three training videos—instructions on how the site works, limited scope, and using plain language—for volunteers at this time and is planning on adding more in the future. For more information on how to volunteer, go to website www.texaslegalanswers.org.

If you would like to learn more about hosting a Texas Legal Answers clinic at your law firm or organization or to schedule an MCLE-accredited presentation about Texas Legal Answers for your members or employees, please contact Hannah Allison, hallison@texasbar.com.

Discounts for hotels and camping supplies

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 08:00

This summer, you can have the best of both worlds with the Member Benefit Program, which has savings on both luxurious hotels and durable tools and supplies for camping. Visit the Travel, Sports & Outdoors and Retail pages to start saving.

  • Wyndham Hotel Group – When you stay twice at nearly any of our 8,000 hotels worldwide, you’ll earn up to one free night. Wyndham has the right hotel for you.
  • Moosejaw – Moosejaw has the coolest outdoor gear for hiking, climbing, camping and backpacking. State Bar of Texas members save 10% on full-priced items with code ACTIVE10.
  • VSSL Utility Tools – Multi-functional VSSL tools feature components critical for outdoor survival. You’ll save 25% on all orders with Promo Code ZDQCFV6AFNVD.
  • Cruise & Vacation Perks – Adventure awaits on the open seas! With your exclusive Cruise & Vacation Perks offer, you can save 4% when you book your next cruise.
  • Cotopaxi – Cotopaxi products bridge urban and outdoor lifestyles, providing versatile products that combine sleek style and practical durability. You can save 20% on any full-price items.
  • GolfEtail.com – GolfEtail.com’s goal is to provide you with great quality and outstanding pricing on some of the top brands in golf. Our benefits include free shipping for purchases over $99, easy returns and free golf advice from the experts.
  • LuminAID – Originally designed to provide relief and safety at night in areas hit by natural disasters, LuminAID has gone on to become a reliable source of light for any nighttime occasion. You can save 15% sitewide and receive free shipping for orders over $60.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Dallas Bar Association hosting summer law programs for law students, clerks

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 10:15

All law students, recent graduates and clerks are invited to the Belo Mansion for the Dallas Bar Association Summer Law Programs.

Here is the complete list of the summer law programs being offered:

Law Student Professionalism Program on Thursday, May 31 at 2 p.m. RSVP here.

Summer Clerks Pro Bono Luncheon on Friday, June 1 at noon. RSVP here.

Minority Clerkship Luncheons on Friday, June 8 and July 6 at noon. RSVP here.

Come out to network and learn!

State Bar LRE website redesigned

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department has announced the redesign of its website, texaslre.org.

The LRE aims to improve law-related and civic education programs throughout the state through curriculum development and educator training.

The redesigned site features two buttons front and center that provide educators with either professional development resources or lesson plans. The professional development resources includes information on specific programs and links to register for them in the various areas around the state.

The lesson plans are grouped from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, ensuring that the material—web lessons, games, and links to all its programs—is grade-level appropriate. For pre-kindergarten, for example, content ranges from a history lesson on Columbus Day to a culture lesson on appreciating likeness and differences. The content on the eighth grade lesson plan page includes materials on the creation of the Constitution and the Civil War. Lesson pages for world history, U.S. history, and government are also included.

The site was redesigned to provide educators with easy-to-find useful information. In addition, the site features entry points to LREs programs such as Citizen Bee, Justiceville, 7 Principles of the Constitution, I was the First. Vote for Me! The homepage also features the latest LRE social media updates and upcoming events.

For more information, go to texaslre.org.

Sophisticated scam targets Texas attorney

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 15:00

Last fall, a Texas attorney was contacted through Martindale-Hubbard to assist in potential bankruptcy representation for a Nova Scotia, Canada-based company, which was seeking funds owed from a Houston-based firm.

It was a sophisticated scam—and quite different from usual ones in the following ways: (1) the first check the scammer sent was a valid check and was collected by the bank; (2) the attorney was careful to ensure the check was collected before wiring the funds; (3) there was a second check involved instead of just one; and (4) the scammer used a legitimate legal website to contact the attorney.

This new scam targeting lawyers is described as extremely complex in nature and also has the implication to land those it is defrauding in legal trouble. Here’s what transpired.

The scam began when a representative for the Canadian company communicated to the attorney that it was owed a substantial amount of money and feared the Houston firm would go bankrupt in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The attorney researched both firms and found both to have working websites. He also read a media release indicating the Houston firm had suffered a significant disruption in its Houston operations due to Harvey.

At this point, the attorney sent a representation and retainer agreement to the Canadian firm. The issuance of the required retainer amount was delayed, but the attorney was assured verbally and in an email that it had been sent. Additionally, flooding in Houston had just subsided, and Hurricane Irma was affecting postal service in Florida. The attorney also considered the possibility that the letter was delayed in shipping through the Canadian postal system, and checked to see how long a letter from the zip code in Nova Scotia would take to be delivered to Texas. A search of the lawyer’s rural Texas zip code on the Canadian postal website turned up no result.

In the coming weeks, the Houston firm reached out the attorney and indicated it would immediately be paying its debt to the Canadian firm. On September 25, 2017, the attorney received a $357,000 check (the amount owed) from a personal bank account of a senior representative of the Houston firm. The attorney deposited the check in an Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts, or IOLTA, under a restrictive “Deposit Only” endorsement including his IOLTA account number. The check was placed under the standard seven-day business hold and no action was taken at that time. The attorney performed substantial services in advising the client of perfecting secured creditor status and undertook to engage both local counsel and a listing broker to evaluate the purchase or lease of moorage space on the Houston Ship Channel.

Once the check cleared, the attorney was instructed to make three wire transfers of $67,350, $176,350, and $96,200 from the account and to take his retainer sum and legal fees of $11,720 out of the available funds. Wiring instructions were delivered on company letterhead and contained one incorrect wiring code, which was corrected by the corresponding bank.

On October 16, 2017, the attorney received a second, this time, cashier’s, check purportedly drawn on Comerica Bank sent by overnight mail in the amount of $295,720. The attorney deposited the cashier’s check that day, and received instructions from the Canadian firm to immediately wire $147,000 to a party in Georgia. The attorney made no attempt to complete the wire transaction at that time because the check had yet to clear and no funds were paid to the bank. The cashier’s check was immediately spotted during the bank to bank clearinghouse process and returned as a forgery.

A call to the accounting department of the Houston-based firm to confirm the check, resulted in the attorney being informed that no such check had been issued, and the company did not bank with the associated institution.

At this time, the attorney contacted another attorney to discuss the irregularities and was advised to proceed with extreme caution as this was likely a fraudulent scheme, identity theft, or both.

The attorney then emailed his Canadian contact to request financial backup and invoices for the cashier’s check in order to verify it as a genuine transaction. The contact provided the attorney with a supporting invoice to backup the transaction.

Out of curiosity, the attorney searched the address for the recipient of the fourth, unsent wire transfer, and found it to be a home improvement store Home Depot in Duluth, Georgia. Upon review of the tracking numbers attached to original letter, check express mail envelope, and subsequent certified mail envelope revealed the origin of shipping as Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, according to the Canadian postal service. All the communications purported to be from locations in Texas and the United States.

The attorney then did a BeenVerified search for his contact, and found two telephone numbers listed for the personal check payor. Attempts to contact were unsuccessful. During the corresponding time period, the website the attorney had used to verify the Canadian company was taken down. A link to the website, which the attorney had first used to verify the company, still remained in place.

On October 19, 2017, the attorney contacted the ethics department of the State Bar of Texas to determine whether there was a safe harbor provision to allow for disclosure of client communications to third parties when the attorney reasonably believed their services had or may be used in the furtherance of fraud or illegal activity. That same day, the attorney contacted his own bank to discuss the matter with the bank’s senior local office counsel. The attorney agreed to provide documentation despite a potentially adverse legal position and the bank agreed to release any hold on the IOLTA account as to remaining funds as specifically approved by the attorney.

The original $357,000 personal check was paid and transaction finalized per the UCC and the attorney’s bank received good funds. Since the date of deposit through this publication , the check has not been returned timely or late pursuant to UCC articles 3 and 4, nor has any communication of any kind been received from the personal check account holder despite the attorney being the named payee on the instrument.

The attorney terminated his representation of the Canadian company on October 20, 2017.

Multiple new defenses to any potential unjust enrichment claim by the account holder are propounded in the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment under “innocent payee” or “forced payee” theories. These defenses are grounded in the Holder in Due Course and Bona Fide Purchaser defensive theories, and require only subjective good faith and objective commercial reasonableness as to the conduct of an attorney involved. They are certainly worth and look and retention for any truly rainy day.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Richmond

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 09:00

Veterans in need of legal advice or assistance can visit a free clinic on Saturday, June 2, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteer attorneys will give any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran one-on-one advice in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate law, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Veterans in need of ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney.

No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will be held at the Richmond VA Outpatient Clinic, 22001 SW Fwy., Ste. 200, Richmond 77469, and is a public service of the Fort Bend Lawyers Care, the Fort Bend County Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information, call the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans website at texasbar.com/veterans.


Carmen Roe of Houston elected to State Bar of Texas Board of Directors in runoff

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 07:18

Carmen Roe

Houston lawyers have elected Carmen Roe to represent them on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors.

Roe faced Courtney T. Carlson in a runoff election for the District 4, Place 5 seat on the board after none of three candidates received a majority of the vote in a general election that ended May 1. The runoff was held May 10 through 5 p.m. CT May 24.

In the runoff, Roe received 50.5 percent of the 3,387 votes cast. Carlson followed closely with 49.5 percent.

To read the full news release, click here.